Welcome to the OilersNation UFA preview. Over the next 15 days, I’ll be profiling the top 30 players in this years UFA class, as listed by TSN. Contract information is from our friends at Puckpedia. Full UFA list via puckpedia here. Analytics provided by hockeyviz.com and naturalstattrick.com. Contract projections are done by evolving-hockey.com with the presumption contracts are signed between Aug. – Oct. 11.
Today, we’re looking at the 28th ranked Erik Gustafsson and 27th ranked Cody Ceci.
Gustafsson stepped into the Calgary Flames lineup at the NHL’s trade deadline with the team giving up a third-round pick for the 28-year-old. In seven games in the regular season, he scored three assists putting up another four assists in 10 playoff games.
Originally drafted by the Oilers in the 4th round of the 2012 draft, he went unsigned by Edmonton and in 2015, he inked a deal with Chicago. There, he had flourished into a puck-moving defenceman who could put up points. He posted a 60-point season in 2018-19 in Chicago, and last year, scored 29 points in 66 games.
He is coming off a two-year, $1.2-m AAV deal.
At 5v5, Gustafsson put up a 48 CF% and a 46.15 xGF%. His goals for rate at 5v5, however, was solid at 54%. Playing a second pairing role this year, Gustafsson’s isolated impact in the offensive zone was six percent below league average, while his defence was 10 percent worse than league average.
Gustafsson has been a powerplay quarterback in both of the last two seasons scoring six goals and 21 assists. Gustafsson played in 14 PK minutes for Chicago earlier this year.
Contract projection: Five years, $5.665-million AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? No. Gustafsson is a solid top-four defenceman but struggles in his own zone and a lot of his production in the last two years is from the powerplay. At his projected price point, he will be far to rich for the Oilers to be bidding on.
Ceci is going to be an interesting player to follow as free agency opens up. While he’s been one of the most controversial players for his on ice play, the Toronto Maple Leafs had clearly seen value in the defenceman. The Leafs acquired him in July 2019 alongside Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick for Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown and Micahel Carcone.
Last year, he scored only one goal and eight points for the Leafs in 56 games, but put up a 26 point season only one year prior. Coming off a one year deal that paid him $4.5-million in Toronto, he likely won’t be able to get that on the open market.
Toronto seemed to turn Ceci, who had at times been suggested as one of the worst rearguard in the league, into a formidable top-four defenceman. While his isolated impact in the offensive zone was eight percent worse than league average, defensively he posted numbers at a five percent rate better than a league average. Around the net, he was a vacuum limiting offensive chances.
Ceci’s 5v5 50.22 CF% was his best since his rookie season, as was his xG% of 50.84.
Contract projection: One year, $1.461-million AAV.
Should the Oilers be interested? Maybe. Ceci might be a valuable third pairing, or seventh defenceman, for the Oilers depending on what else transpires between now and then. I would have time for Ceci at his above cap hit, but not more than that.
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